|Updated: 11/30/2011 6:54 pm
||Published: 11/18/2011 8:12 am
Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant women’s basketball coach Miranda Serna were killed along with two others Thursday night in a plane crash in Perry County, Arkansas.
Budke and Serna were on a recruiting trip to Arkansas. Former state senator Olin Branstetter and his wife were also killed in the crash.
The plane carrying Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and an assistant crashed near the top of a ridge in a heavily wooded area in central Arkansas. Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery says the plane went straight into the hillside late Thursday afternoon.
The sheriff says a witness heard the small plane's engine sputtering, then saw it go into a spiral and crash nose first. The plane clipped some treetops before impact. Montgomery said nearby hunters were first on the scene and led rescuers to the crash site. Montgomery says the first deputy to reach the scene told him it was likely there were no survivors. All four aboard were killed.
The crash occurred about 45 miles northwest of Little Rock. NTSB investigators say the plane collided with a ridgeline.
“The Oklahoma State family is devastated by this tragedy,” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna and the other victims.
“Kurt was an exemplary leader and a man of character who had a profound impact on his student-athletes,” Hargis said. “He was an outstanding coach and a wonderful person. We send our deepest sympathies to his wife, Shelley, and their children, Sara, Alex and Brett.
“Coach Budke elevated our women’s basketball program to new levels of success,” Hargis said. “He and his staff raised our profile in the nation’s toughest conference.”
“Miranda was an up-and-coming coach and an outstanding role model for our young ladies.”
Mike Holder, OSU vice president for athletics, said, “We are shocked by this terrible loss. Kurt Budke was an incredibly positive influence on his players and was a tremendous coach. He quickly turned our program around and put Cowgirl basketball on the map. Miranda was a tireless worker and great recruiter.”
Holder said Jim Littell, associate head coach, would assume duties as interim head coach. The university announced the Cowgirls will not play games scheduled Saturday and Sunday. OSU counselors and athletic staff are offering assistance to the Cowgirl student-athletes and staff.
OSU has canceled games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The OSU wrestling team has also canceled matches scheduled for this weekend.